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The “New” Child as Human Capital

An effect of the move into the EYFS, as mentioned earlier, was that the early years child is now located more directly and explicitly in the realm of human capital and resources for the nation-state. Young children are a resource to be cultivated in hopes of future financial gain (as capital) if that resource is developed wisely, but also in fear of potential future loss (a loss of human capital) if the resource is squandered. The early years child, as a potential economic resource, is now subject to a different form of surveillance—that of schooling regulatory practices—than when they were discursively situated as being only within the sphere of family, nursery, or the stage of infancy. They now have a standardized curriculum, constructed in the interest of national economic security, with their programs now subject to explicit state regulatory practices such as standards and inspections.

Early twenty-first-century literature about England’s programs for young children includes long-term studies on the integration of a business model into early years children and families, their programs and providers (e.g., see Goodfellow, 2005; Moss, 2007, 2008a, 2008b). In Joy Goodfellow’s 2005 article on Australian childcare services, “Market Childcare: Preliminary Observations of the ‘Property View’ of the Child,” she stated, “There exists a tension, or paradox, between humanistic perspectives on childcare and business-oriented approaches to service provision.” In his 2008 paper on childcare presented in Ireland, “Beyond Childcare, Markets and Technical Practice—or Repoliticising Early Childhood,” Peter Moss said, “Despite years of discussion about the inseparability of ‘care’ and ‘education’ . . . market standardization system continue(s) to be based on the care/education split” (2008a, p. 6). Moss goes on to say that the split between education and care is conceptual as well as structural and he then problematizes both. To clarify the issue, he posits, “ ‘Market standardization’ makes technical practice first practice . . . services are producers of marketised commodities (e.g., ‘childcare’ or, these days, ‘quality childcare’) and predetermined outcomes (e.g., developmental and learning goals)” (p. 7). The earlier use of the business model in primary and secondary schools has generated some changes in the way the model is carried as a result of critiques; it is too soon to know what this shift might bring to the younger children, their caregivers, and their families.

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